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The tower at the top of Grassy Mountain is usually unlocked up to the first landing that affords a nice view of the Cohutta Wilderness and Tennessee. The Grassy Mountain trail Stretches from the dam on Lake Conasauga to the old fire tower atop Grassy Mountain. This trail makes an easy ascent. This land was originally part of the Cherokee National Forest. When the U.S. government formed the Georgia National Forest they combined purchases made throughout the North Georgia Mountains with portions of the Cherokee. Renamed in 1937 to Chattahoochee National Forest the area is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi.
Grassy Mountain is one of the tallest mountains in the Cohutta Wilderness Area. The site where pictograps have been found is in a camping area not far from the summit. This area can be reached by hiking the Grassy Mountain trail. Shortly after the start of this trail it joins the Songbird Trail. From this junction the trail turns right. Past a beaver dam on the left the trail continues on an uphill path to the top of Grassy Mountain. For a short time it runs next to a Forest Service Road but then returns to the woods. Here you will find several boulders which have evidence of ancient pictographs etched or chisled on them. Some bear a sriking resemblance to Celtic markings that have been found as far north as Maine. You are encouraged to take rubbings of these rocks, since with the advent of the hundreds of thousands of hunters, hickers and tourists, they are rapidly disappearing.
While you are visiting Grassy mountain, it is suggested that you visit the rest of the Cohutta Wilderness area. Almost 70 square miles of this North Georgia wilderness is surrounded by a drive many refer to as the Cohutta Loop. For the outdoor enthusiast, this is heaven. The drive provides access to the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi, abounds with walking trails and wildlife, and features occasional campgrounds as it follows the perimeter of the wilderness.
To call this road a loop is misleading, for there is no road across the northern end of this federal land. The Forest Service considers the loop a ragtag of roads that it refers to by number. Along the way the road offers babbling creeks nearby, climbing steadily to spectacular vistas along the southern and southwestern end of the wilderness. Access to the road is extremely limited.
Our journey begins in the southeastern corner of Tennessee, near the northeastern corner of the wilderness. Highway 251 west from State Road 68 takes us across the Ocoee River to Tumbling Creek. To the right is Tumbling Creek Campground. To the left is the start of the Cohutta loop. Here the narrow road rises along Tumbling Creek. A single lane with turnouts, traffic on this portion of the road is rarely a problem. Downed trees and other debris are. Although the Forest Service does a remarkable job keeping the road clear, it is not uncommon to have large trees fall and close the road for days at a time. One recent occurrence of a downed tree closed this portion of the road on the July 4th weekend. The road meets a crossroad that to the west follows a ridge to Hemp Top. Straight ahead lies the continuation of Forest Service Road 22.
Primitive camping is allowed throughout the wilderness, except directly on trails. There are a number of federal fee-based campgrounds along the Cohutta Loop, and they are well maintained, however, facilities are extremely limited. We recommend only experienced campers plan on using these sites.
The road continues to climb along a ridge until it meets old Highway 2 from Colwell. Now the road widens and two cars can normally pass without a problem. Highway 2 faithfully follows one of the first routes across the mountains. Cherokee would use this route through the mountains and significant Native American communities developed over much of this land. Land acquired by settlers in this area during the fifth land lottery (1832) was not greatly desired and much of it was quickly sold to mountain folk from further north at rock-bottom prices. Undeveloped at the turn of the century, lumber companies consolidated the purchases and systematically stripped the land of the lumber resources, build roads and rails to get to the trees. Even today it is not uncommon to realize you are walking on a rail grade or spot the remnants of a trestle across a river. The overforesting would continue, with a brief halt for the Depression, until 1937.
The road now enters the poles of the shed. Cohutta is from the Cherokee expression Ga-hu-ta-yi, which means, "place of shed roof on poles." The poles of the shed are the mountains on the southern outer rim of the wilderness and they "hold up" the sky, or the roof of the shed. Our direction of travel has shifted from south to west, and scenic views open to the south frequently as we cross Rocky Face and Potatopatch Mountain. This road is especially beautiful in autumn because of the hardwood mix. Now we begin to climb Grassy Mountain and our destination, the Songbird Trail, for while we love scenic drives, our first love is quiet backwoods trails, and this is one of the best. Created by the Forest Service using clearcuts and burns, songbirds are attracted in such numbers that it is difficult to distinguish individual calls from the cacophony of sound that develops deeper into the walk. Lake Conesauga Recreation Area also has camping along the lakeshore that is rarely full, even on long weekends. If time permits, a longer hike to Grassy Mountain (See Above) affords the best view of the area.
This marks the high point of the drive, and indicates a slow return to civilization. We continue to follow the loop to the Crandall "exit" and head south towards home along Highway 411.
After heavy rains a four-wheel drive may be required to traverse the road. Check with the local Forest Service office for detailed information. A map of the Chattahoochee National Forest is available from the Forest Service for a modest fee, and most state and federal parks in North Georgia sell the map at their gift shops.
To do along the way:
A number of hiking trails including the
Beech Bottom and Jack's River Trail.
How to get there
Copper Hill, McCaysville - Take Highway 68 North to State Road 251, which dead-ends at Tumbling Creek Road. Turn left. This is the start of the Cohutta Loop.
From Colwell - Stay on Old Highway 2. At the Cohutta Wilderness sign, follow the road to the left.
From Blue Ridge - Take Highway 52(U.S. 76) to Forest Service Road 68 and follow Lake Conasauga signs.
From Chatsworth - head north on 411 to Eton. Make a right at the traffic light and follow signs to Lake Conesauga.
From Crandall - Turn right on Grassy Mountain Road. Cross railroad tracks and turn left at Lake Conesauga sign. The road winds as it climbs to the Cohutta Loop.
Cohutta Wilderness is noted for its natural
unspoiled environment. The mountainsides and valleys are dotted with rustic, but
comfortable cabins, some available for weekend or longer visits. Rich Mountain,
Chattahoochee National Forest Areas, and nearby Fort Mountain and Amicalola Falls State
Parks, offer opportunities for hiking, overnight camping, and other recreation.
Cohutta Wilderness Area beckons to
the world-weary and time-worn during any season. Come away to a place where winter is a
mountaintop dusted with snow; spring is a hillside layered with apple blossoms summer is a
valley sprinkled with wild flowers; and fall is a mountainside covered with a patchwork
quilt of multicolored leaves.
The Best of the
Appalachian Trail:Day Hikes
by Frank and Victoria Logue
Appalachian Trail Fun Book
by Frank and Victoria Logue
The Georgia Conservancy's Guide to the North Georgia Mountains
by Fred Brown, et al
Friendships of the Trail : The History of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, 1930-1980
by Published by Appalachian Trail Conference
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